On women’s day, we celebrate Women who have broken the glass ceiling, women who have made remarkable achievements in various sectors, Women who have made it in male-dominated spheres and Women who have proved to be role models. This recognition is justified. But what about the other women who take the shadow position? The Women who help with the domestic work in these women’s homes, the Women who cook food in their offices, the Women who babysit when they are away, the Women who tailor the dresses that they wear, the Women who vend foodstuffs to them on the streets and the Women who clean up after them? It is crucial that the women in the informal sector are recognized, appreciated and celebrated.
The informal economy implies a diversified set of economic activities, enterprises, jobs and workers that are not regulated, monitored, taxed or protected by the state. According to the Uganda National Household Survey 2016/17, 90% of Uganda’s economy is informal. Within that 90% of all informal businesses in Kampala, 66% are women which makes up the majority of the informal workers.
To date, there are a number of laws and policies in Uganda that make a concerted effort to enhance women’s positions in the economy and many of these have yielded notable results. The 2nd National Development (NDP II, 2015-2020) makes specific reference to sector-specific gender in a bid to realize inclusive growth by prioritizing gender equality and women’s empowerment. Even so, in many countries, including Uganda, women entrepreneurs who have engaged in informal business activities have signiﬁcantly contributed to poverty reduction, mobilized entrepreneurial initiatives, autonomy, and accelerated the achievement of wider socioeconomic objectives (Belwal & Singh, 2008).
This women’s day Uganda Celebrates 25 years of the 1995 Constitution: milestones in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Let us recognize and appreciate the efforts of women in the informal sector which contributes significantly to the development and vibrance of not only the ‘powerful women’ but the entire nation.
During this year’s National celebration in Mbale district, eastern Uganda, the President of Uganda Y.K Museveni echoed the economic empowerment of women. He said, “through commercial agriculture, industries, services, ICT women can create jobs or find employment in public service if they have the required qualification.” He pledged that the Government would increase allocations to Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), Youth Fund and Operation Wealth creation to allow more women access to business financing.
Regardless of what the Government of Uganda has done and pledges to do, there are still gaps that need to be closed. According to the National Labor force survey 2016/17, Women are overrepresented in informal and vulnerable employment. These women face a number of challenges from exploitation by their employees or customers, lack of social security and rights at work, demand for bribes, physical abuse, lack of access to finance and sexual harassment.
It is important that these issues are seen as an area of national concern and remedies are sought not only in policy formulation and implementation but also in resource allocation towards building women’s capacity in economic empowerment initiatives and meaningful financial inclusion. It is also important to sensitize communities to be more acceptive of women in the informal sector and enable them to improve and break barriers. The government should also extend its credit facilities and reduce the borrowing conditions for the most vulnerable persons to enable them to access credit and thus eradicate poverty.
Compiled by Patricia Nyasuna
Program Officer Gender & ICT Policy Advocacy